Cutting calories can also cut your risk for disease.
Achieving better health as we approach middle age can be a challenge. Decades of poor eating habits can be hard to break, and we typically don’t have the same amount of energy we had when we were younger, making it more difficult (and often discouraging) to work off any extra pounds we’ve packed on. But losing weight is only one part of better health, and cutting back on the calories can have other health benefits for those of us who are even moderately overweight—or not overweight at all.
A new study by the National Institutes of Health shows that cutting back on your daily calorie intake can also dial back your risk factors for disease.
During the study, more than 200 healthy adults who were slightly overweight or at normal weight were randomly assigned to either a calorie restriction group or a control group where they would continue with their regular eating habits. On average, the participants in the restricted calories group experienced a 4 percent drop in blood pressure, a 6 percent decrease in total cholesterol, and increased levels of HDL (or “good”) cholesterol. They also saw a key risk factor for diabetes—reduced insulin resistance— drop, as well. Some developed temporary anemia and larger-than-expected decreases in bone density, however, which led the study’s authors to recommend medical monitoring during any similar calorie-restriction efforts.
QUICK CALORIE CUTTERS
The participants in the study reduced their typical daily caloric intake by 25 percent. While that might seem like a lot, there are many easy ways to cut back on your calories—including some you may not have considered. Try some of these:
Exercise in the morning. Not only does exercise boost your body temperature and combat your hunger, it can help you to keep moving throughout the day.
- Don’t starve yourself. Fill up on healthy things like fruit, veggies, and beans instead.
- Pop more protein. It takes your body longer to digest protein than it does carbohydrates or fat, which boosts your metabolism, and makes you feel full faster and longer.
- When cooking meals, use your mom’s (or, better yet, you grandmother’s) cookbooks. Meal sizes were smaller back in the day, and smaller meals mean fewer calories.
- Changing up your typical routines can make you think more about what you’re doing, and when it comes to food, eating with your opposite hand can help you pay more attention to exactly how much you’re eating and, hopefully, eat a little bit less.
- Stop eating when you feel full, not when your plate is empty. And use smaller plates when you eat.
- Don’t eat while watching TV. Mindless eating means also not being mindful of the amount of calories you’re taking in.
- Get more sleep. Being tired will make you want to snack more.
CALORIE CUT LIKE A PRO
Here are a few lesser-known tips for types that bring their calorie-snipping scissors to every eating decision, all day.
- Blot the grease off your pizza. It cuts even more calories than you think. Researchers have found reductions of 20, all the way up to 50 calories from using a napkin before digging in.
- Don’t rely on just any old salad. Without mingling fiber and protein into your greens, you’re almost guaranteed to be starving, scurrying for snacks in no time. Throw on a few beans, avocado or sunflower seeds to stay full without adding too many calories.
- As we said before, if you’re “full” don’t keep eating what’s in front of you. But exactly how “full” is full? You can determine what level of satiety (fullness) is the right one by thinking about it like a scale. Give your feeling a rating. Use the chart below as a guide, targeting a 6-8. Also, if you’re feeling below a 5 on the scale, eat a little more, particularly filling, high protein foods so you don’t end up rating a 10 later that day!
- While the perils of alcohol to a calorie conscious diet are known, it’s more complicated than just the number of them written on the label. Calorie-for-calorie, alcohol has a comparatively low ability to make you feel full. In addition, it encourages less dietary caution. It isn’t simply wine or beer alone rack up the calories, it’s all the extra junk food consumed more often around drinking where the real problem occurs.
What calorie-cutting tricks work for you? Let us know in the comments below!
Sources: Fitnessmagazine.com, Health.com, Heart.org, NIH.gov, Prevention.com, Lifehacker.com, Mentalfloss.com
You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program
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